How Front Porch Forum is Empowering the Citizens of Vermont

For all of of the convenience and value that tech companies and platforms provide, we’re also starting to see just how much they take away. In this episode, Michael Wood-Lewis, the co-founder of Front Porch Forum, shares how big tech facilitates connections between people, but at both a monetary and social cost.

In this episode, Michael and Patrick discuss how tech platforms optimize for engagement, back and forth between their users. But Front Porch Forum optimizes for actual conversations, not just online, but in person around civic engagement, and for things like borrowing a ladder or finding a plumber. If we take these conversations back, what happens to big tech?

Michael also shares:

  • The importance of authenticity on Front Porch Forum
  • What happened when local politicians realized the power of engaging with constituents through Front Porch Forum
  • How Front Porch Forum creates the feeling of a neighborhood block party online

Big Quotes

How big tech removes autonomy from local communities: “A vibrant local community, part of it is a functional local government. You need engaged citizens, and you need a vibrant local business sector if you want to have a healthy community. … It’s hard to do that in the age of Amazon and Facebook.” -Michael Wood-Lewis

On the pacing of discussions on Front Porch Forum: “What’s the benefit of rushing [to post]? On more than one occasion, I have seen a topic heat up in the neighborhood where I live on Front Porch Forum and at the same time heat up on Facebook or Twitter. I have to tell you, the tone of those venues is radically different. On Facebook or Twitter, it’s instantaneous, it’s back and forth. … There’s something that doesn’t encourage our best selves oftentimes in this rapid exchange environment.” -Michael Wood-Lewis

About Michael Wood-Lewis

Michael Wood-Lewis and his wife, Valerie Wood­-Lewis, founded in 2006, driven to help neighbors connect and build community. More than half of their state participates daily.

Born and raised in Indiana, Michael graduated from the University of Illinois with a master’s in engineering and an MBA. He and Valerie met while working in Washington DC, married, and have been raising a family in Vermont for the past 20 years.

When not working on FPF, you can find Michael hanging out in their neighborhood, Five Sisters, coaching youth sports, or enjoying Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains.

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